As the high end of the Macintosh line rises, it has begun to bump into the low end of the so-called workstations from companies like Sun, HP, IBM, and NeXT. Sun just introduced a new model of their popular SPARCstation, the IPC (for InterPersonal Computer – sounds vaguely kinky to us, a computer go-between :-)) that is moving down into the personal computer range. A bit on terminology first. There is a big difference between a personal computer like an Apple II and a Sun SPARCstation. However, there is little difference between a SPARCstation and Macintosh IIfx running A/UX these days, making the terms personal computer and workstation rather ambiguous. The difference seems to be related to the type of use these things are put to. Macs and PC-clones, even the high end ones, are general purpose computers. There are thousands of programs to do many things and they are marketed to general users. On the other hand, SPARCstations and NeXTs and IBM’s RISC 6000 computers are limited purpose computers. They do several things very well, better than general purpose computers in most cases, but many other actions require significant effort. They are not marketed to the general public even when their prices place them in that price range, partly because they usually run Unix, which is not a simple operating system even when buffered by a graphical interface. Put it this way. There isn’t a SunConnection or NeXTConnection yet.
Nonetheless, Sun is slumming a bit with the IPC. It comes with a 207 megabyte hard disk, eight megabytes of RAM, a 16" color monitor, built-in EtherNet, two slots, two serial ports, and a 3.5" drive. Sounds like a nice Mac IIfx system, no? All that has a list price of a mere $9995, but educational prices drop significantly to $5997. The price is one thing, but the IPC really crosses to the other side of the tracks with its DOS emulator, which can run programs such as Lotus 1-2-3, Wingz, and WordPerfect if you don’t want to reap the benefits of buying the SPARC-specific versions.
We’re not running out to get one though, at least not until we see what NeXT comes out in September. The new machines from NeXT will both use the Motorola 68040, include 2.88 megabyte floppy disks, 100 megabyte hard disks, and will have the optical drive as an option. The main difference between them will be size and color, with the low end machine ($5000) (which is still a medium-end price in our book) forsaking the cube look for a pizza box style and the high end machine ($10,000) including 32-bit color graphics and Renderman technology.
Joel Conklin, Sun Microsystems — 315/445-0390
Joel Conklin — [email protected]
Adam C. Engst & Tonya Byard — TidBITS editors
InfoWorld — 30-Jul-90, Vol. 12 #31, pg. 1
PC WEEK — 30-Jul-90, Vol. 7 #30, pg. 1